Simple Lentil Pilaf

Even though a good deal of my last post talked about lentils, I’m talking about them again today because I actually found the time to create and cook a recipe, albeit a very simple one.  But sometimes simplicity is all you need.

Andplusalso, yay for MOAR LENTILS!!!!!1!!1!  [I am very sleep deprived.]

Simple Lentil Pilaf
This pilaf tastes great hot or cold and makes a really nice side to almost any entree.
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Serves 4

Ingredients
1 tablespoonolive oil
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/4 cups cooked lentils
2 cups cooked brown rice
1/8 teaspoon garlic salt (or just use garlic powder and add salt to taste)
1/8 teaspoon thyme

Directions
In a large saucepan, saute shallot and garlic in olive oil for 5-8 minutes over medium-high heat until soft and slightly browned. Add lentils, garlic salt, and thyme, and stir well. Lower heat and add rice. Stir to warm through. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired.

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In the interest of full disclosure, I should tell you that I used the pre-cooked lentils from Trader Joe’s in this dish. But really, lentils are so easy and quick to cook from dry that you won’t be ceding any of your laziness cred if you cook your own to use in this dish.

Enjoy!

Favorites from the 2014 Virtual Vegan Potluck

As always, this past weekend’s Virtual Vegan Potluck was a ton of fun, with so many tantalizing dishes and beautiful photos to peruse!

It’s an honor to participate but selfishly I also LOVE the VVP because I always discover so many new blogs and come away with dozens of new, amazing recipes to try!  In case you didn’t have a chance to browse the 85+ dishes that were presented this weekend, I’ve collected some of my personal favorites for your viewing pleasure.  It was tough but I narrowed it down to two from each course (except in courses with less than seven submissions, in which case I chose only one favorite).

Please note that all photos are the property of the bloggers whose dishes they show.  I am reposting them ONLY so that you can appreciate the talent and hard work of the bloggers, and in the hope that you will give them a visit to check out the recipes for yourself!

Appetizers
Lemon-Thyme Polenta Bites with Arugula Pesto and Mushrooms from Seasonal Veg Head
Vegan Dilled Ceviche from Veggie Inspired
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Beverages
Festive Spiced Tahini Hot Chocolate from Bunny Kitchen
Cranberry-Grapefruit White Wine Spritzer from Glue and Glitter
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Salads
Tropical Fruit Salad with Raspberry Dressing from Parsley in my Teeth
Rosemary Infused Grapefruit and Kale Salad from The Glowing Fridge
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Breads 
Rosemary and Meyer Lemon Focaccia from Yup, It’s Vegan
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Soups/Stews
Creamy Lemon Asparagus Soup from Helyn’s Healthy Kitchen
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Sides
Lentil Sweet Potato Salad with Grapefruit Vinaigrette and Crispy Shallots from Veganizzm
Cranberry Pomegranate Pear Sauce from A Journey with Tiffany
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Mains
Mushroom Duxelle Ravioli in Cashew Cream Sauce from Astig Vegan
Seitan Marbella from Fried Dandelions
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Desserts (aside from my own Spiced Maple Butternut Crisp of course!)
Chocolate Orange Hazelnut Truffle Tart from My Darling Vegan
Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Pretzel Frosting from Veggies Don’t Bite
Lemon Curd Tiramisu from Marfigs’ Munchies
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Okay…I couldn’t pick just two desserts…

Another VVP in the books.  Now, off I go to get started on recreating some of these delights!

Amazing Vegan Garlic Bread

Garlic bread is really a no brainer that doesn’t need a recipe. However, last week I tried a new-to-me method of making it, and it came out SO GOOD that I had to share it with you!
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I discovered the method (again, hardly want to call it a “recipe”) on PureWow. The only change required to veganize it is to use Earth Balance (or similar) to replace the butter (duh).

Basically, you warm whole cloves of garlic in olive oil until tender, then mash them up into a paste that you spread over the bread before baking. I’m telling you, it’s freakin’ delicious.
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Bon appetit!

P.S. – Don’t forget to enter my Ecolissa giveaway!  It is open until Wednesday night.

Simply Perfect Sides: The Best Steamed Kale

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We all know kale is super-duper healthy for you, making it a staple in most vegan kitchens and the star of many a vegan recipe. As much as I’ve wanted to like it, though, it took me some time and a lot of trial and error to find the best way to enjoy kale.
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Raw (i.e., kale salad) is yummy but you need a really good dressing (like this one–my all-time fave) to effectively soften those tough leaves and cut the bitter flavor, and I just don’t always have the energy to both make the dressing and then clean my food processor. I do like raw kale in smoothies, but I’m not someone who can have a smoothie at dinner and feel that I’ve eaten the evening meal, know what I mean?

Sauteed with garlic and olive oil, which is my go-to for spinach and softer greens, seems to result in kale that is slightly dry and unevenly cooked. I have also had limited success with kale chips, finding that it’s far too easy for them to become dried-out or slightly (or even majorly!) burnt.

BUT I think I have finally nailed it. Trust me, this super-quick steamed side dish is your perfect kale. Even my husband, who is no big lover of leafy greens, will eat it without complaint, and dare I say, with some enjoyment? (Though I’ll let him weigh in on that one himself.)
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To make:

  • Wash and chop kale.
  • Bring a tiny bit of salted water (maybe 1/4″ of water) to a boil in a medium saucepan. The water will not take long to boil so be ready!
  • Add kale, cover, and cook for 2-3 minutes, until bright green and slightly wilted.
  • Drain and add salt (or garlic salt!), pepper (or lemon pepper!), and a generous squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Toss to make sure it’s evenly coated.

That’s it–you’re done! You can also apply this exact method for collards or any other hardy, thick-stemmed greens.

Not counting the time it takes to wash and chop the kale (which is like, what, 2 minutes?), this side dish is ready in less than 5 minutes. Huge win in my book. I love being able to add a big nutritional boost to my dinner with minimal prep or cleanup.

Oh yeah, and it tastes delicious–seriously!
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Chili Lime Corn on the Cob: A Simply Perfect Snack or Side

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I’m not sure why, but up until last year I had never cooked my own corn on the cob. I guess maybe I thought it was hard or took a long time, but boy was I wrong.

Bottom line: if you can boil water, you can cook corn on the cob.
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Here are the steps:

  • Bring a large pot of UNSALTED water to a boil.
  • De-husk the corn cobs and place them in the water.
  • Leave them there until the water starts to boil again (this takes maybe 2 minutes tops). [Note: if you want it a little softer and less al dente, give it an additional minute in the boiling water.]
  • As soon as the water is boiling again, remove the corn with tongs.
  • Season to taste and eat, typewriter-style.

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[Source]

That’s it!

My absolute favorite flavor right now is Chili Lime Corn on the Cob. To make, just spread a pat of Earth Balance over the still-warm corn, then add a squeeze of fresh lime juice, a sprinkle of salt and pepper, and a generous couple of dashes of mild chili powder (or for an incredible kick, try a spice mixture like Slap Ya Mama). Toss to coat evenly, and enjoy. My mouth is watering just thinking about it…
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This is so quick and fail-proof that I’ve recently taken to eating a piece of corn as a snack when I get home from work. It also makes a fantastic side to pretty much any dinner entree. Right now is the time to enjoy sweet end-of-summer corn, so don’t delay!

I’m also sharing this delicious corn dish in this week’s Virtual Vegan Linky Potluck–check it out!
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Mojito Stone Fruit Salad

Today I am sharing my current obsession: a stone fruit salad with hints of mint and lime reminiscent of a delicious mojito!

Tangy, sweet, and insanely refreshing, this fruit salad is a perfect way to take advantage of summer’s amazing bounty. It makes a delicious breakfast or snack and is easily multiplied for a party, picnic, or bbq.
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Mojito Stone Fruit Salad
Serves 2 as a snack or side, or 1 as a big bodacious breakfast
Vegan, raw, gluten-free

Ingredients
1 nectarine (or peach), pitted and diced
1 plum, pitted and diced
10 cherries, pitted and quartered
1 tsp freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 tsp grated lime zest
1 tsp finely chopped fresh mint

Instructions
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well, stirring gently to avoid bruising the fruit.

Enjoy as is or top with coconut whipped cream for a little decadence! (I like this method by Angela of Oh She Glows).

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Recipe notes:
1) Conventionally grown stone fruits tend to carry a lot of pesticides on their skin. In this one you’ll be eating all the skins, including that of the lime, making this one recipe for which you may want to consider using organic ingredients if available.
2) If your fruit is underripe or you find the salad comes out more tangy than you’d prefer, go ahead and add a little bit of sweetener. Agave nectar or some cane or turbinado sugar would work beautifully.
3) If you are making this to serve at a gathering I would suggest waiting to toss it all together until you are just about ready to serve. This will prevent those sassy cherries from staining the whole thing red!

Have a wonderful, happy, healthy 4th!!!

UPDATE: I have entered this recipe in today’s Virtual Vegan Linky Potluck!

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Spicy Spotlight: Horseshoe Brand

A few weeks back, H and I attended the second annual NYC Hot Sauce Expo, where we had the time of our lives sampling incredible, small batch crafted hot sauces in every flavor imaginable and meeting tons of great people.  We also purchased and brought home dozens of bottles of those sauces, and I immediately got to work coming up with fun uses and recipes for some of our acquisitions.

Two weeks ago, I began a new blog series called Spicy Spotlight, where I share some of these products and my uses for them.   No one is paying me for this; I am only sharing because I have truly fallen in love with each and every one of these sauces and the incredible depth of flavor that they have added to my food.

Another one of my favorite companies at the Expo was Horseshoe Brand.  Horseshoe Brand produces their seven hot sauce flavors in small batches out of Rhinebeck, NY.  H and I tried all seven at the Expo and came home with our three ultra-favoritesCajunRoasted Garlicand Kiwi Jalapeno.

I thought their display, set up to resemble an old-timey wagon, was really elegant and eye-catching:
NYC HSE 007The quality of each one of these sauces is apparent before it even gets past your lips.  It might be weird to say that a hot sauce is beautiful, but these are.  They have this sort of thick, lustrous appearance that is very appetizing, and they smell amazing too.

And of course, the taste is fantastic–very fresh, very concentrated.  The heat level varies among the different flavors, but my experience has been that each has a pleasant, uniform spiciness that does not overwhelm.  

So what do you do with them?

Well, H and I are partial to drizzling the Cajun and Roasted Garlic on pretty much anything, or using them as a sandwich spread.  For a sandwiches, they totally work straight up but are also SO GOOD mixed with a little Veganaise.  The Veganaise-hot sauce combo also makes a ridiculously good dipping sauce. photo SpicySpotlight007_zps7d36c712.jpg
It’s much emptier than that by now!  In fact, we have used up almost all of our bottle of Cajun (and they are rather large) in under a month since the Expo.

This basic, quick, and ultra-lazy “bowl” of brown rice, black beans straight out of the can, and steamed kale was elevated to AMAZING with the simple addition of Cajun sauce:
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As you could probably guess, Cajun and Roasted Garlic are also both fabulous for grilling tofu or other veggies:
 photo 49755439-0f71-4bd9-a9ab-3cfb04602a11_zpse2bf37d9.jpgAs for the Kiwi Jalapeno, I could pretty much eat that one straight out of the bottle.  It bears some resemblance to a salsa verde but has a rich sweetness that permeates and makes you want to taste it again and again.  

I love Kiwi Jalapeno sauce mashed up with avocado for some delicious guac action.  It also makes a fantastic fresh salsa.  Here, I mixed it with a chopped yellow heirloom tomato and some avocado:Yellow Tomato and Avocado Salad photo Picture001_zpsb3d1276d.jpg

It would also be awesome in a fruit salsa.  I’m thinking mango, pineapple, a little cilantro–YUM.

Finally, used as a dressing, it also makes salads very interesting!  If you don’t typically add a spicy element to your salad, I highly suggest giving it a try.  Something fresh and sweet like Kiwi Jalapeno sauce is a good place to start.

So there you have it!  Another delicious, spicy star.  Next week will be my final installment of Spicy Spotlight and will include a giveaway, so be sure to check back!

Click here to read the first Spicy Spotlight, featuring NW Elixirs.
Click here to read last week’s Spicy Spotlight, featuring Dragon’s Blood Elixirs.